Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Canning Cinnamon Pear Sauce

A family of pears:  Papa, Mama,
Teen, and Baby
One of the best gifts my parents ever gave me was a pressure cooker for canning.  Over the years I've canned applesauce, peaches, salsa, and pears. I'd like to try tomatoes...

A task for another day.

Today I'm dealing with pears. My sister has a pear tree in her yard and just gave me a huge box of them.  You can't refuse or ignore free fruit, so I decided to can them.

Here are my step by step instructions:

You will need:

1.  a pressure cooker canner.  Mine hold 7 quarts or pints.

2.  another big kettle to boil the fruit in.

3.  a strainer on a stand with a one-handled rolling pin

4.  Canning Mason jars with the metal rims (that you can use many times).  You can get pint jars or quart jars.  I like the wide-mouth jars the best.

5.  dome lids.  You use these once and discard. The jars you buy have them already, but you'll need more if you keep canning in the future!
6.  wide-mouth funnel that fits on top of jars
7.  Pears or apples
8.  red hot candies
9.  Vitamin C tablets (capsules also work, but tablets dissolve better.) 

Walmart has these supplies.  Or Amazon.

1.  Wash the fruit and the glass jars.
2.  Put a big kettle of water on to boil
3.  Quarter the pears.  I cut off the stem, but you don't have to peel or seed them.
4.  Put them in the water and boil them until a sharp knife can cut them with no effort

5.  Pour them into a big colander to drain off the water.  They are nice and mushy now.
6.  Place your strainer over a bowl (mine is handily on a stand) and using a wooden one-handle rolling pin, strain the mushy pears into the bowl.  The seeds and skin stay behind, and the delicious pear sauce strains through. You'll have to do this many times, and will also have to repeatedly scrape out the inside of the strainer to get rid of the pear parts to discard.

7.  Stir in some red-hot candies and sugar.  Or not.  Make it to your taste.  I used about 1/4 c. candies for the bowl you see (that held enough sauce for 3+ pints), and 1/4 c. sugar.  But sometimes I've used no sugar at all.

8.  Using the wide-mouth funnel, fill the jar to 1/2" from top
9.  Add one Vitamin C tablet.  This prevents the fruit from changing color.  It's mostly for use if you want to can fruit slices in a sugar syrup (see directions at the end of the blog), but I always put it in the sauce jars too.  Habit.  And more vitamin C is a good thing!
10.  Wipe off the top of the jar rim with a towel (so it will seal well) and put a flat lid on it, then screw on the metal ring. 
11.  Place the jars in the pressure cooker in a circle, with one in the middle.  In my cooker I can get six around the sides and one in the middle. It's okay if they touch.  Read the directions for your pressure cooker, but mine says to add 2 quarts of water around the jars.
12.  Secure the pressure cooker lid and place the jiggle-pressure bauble (what IS the term for this?) at 5# pressure on top of the cooker.
13.  Turn the burner on high.  When the bauble starts bobbling (ha!) and continues to bobble about 4 times a minute, it means the air inside the cooker has been removed.  NOW start timing.  10 minutes. You can turn the heat down to Medium Hi, but you want the bauble to keep making noise at 4 bobbles /minute.  It can be more, but not less.
14.  When the ten minutes is up, turn off the heat and leave it alone!  This is very important for your safety.  I set the timer at 45 minutes and leave it alone for that amount of time.
15.  After 45 minutes, open the lid, but angle it toward the back because you will be releasing a lot of steam.  Carefully remove the jars to a towel on the counter.  You can use a fancy jar grabber tool, but I just use a towel.  The jars are very hot!
16.  Leave the jars alone to cool.  No breeze, just naturally. After 8 hours or so you can remove the metal screw-top lids.  The tops of the gold dome lid should be indented, meaning there is a good seal!  I like to write the date on the lid with a Sharpie.

Voila!  I made 7 pints of pear pieces and 13 pints of pear sauce!  It took 3 hours.

More directions:  To can pear pieces (you can see them behind the sauce above), I peeled and cored the pears, but did not boil them because they were ripe already.  I added a sugar water--sweet to your taste--to 1/2" from the top.  Add Vitamin C and repeat #10-16.

I know there are other methods, but this is the way my mom taught me, and I'm not going to argue with her (she's 93!)  Try canning.  It will make you feel so domestic and healthy!

Check out other food items I've pinned on Pinterest!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Leaf in the Forest

"Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed,
and the ears of those who hear will listen."
Isaiah 32: 3

     If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?

     We didn’t know where we were—but we weren’t lost.

     My husband and I love New England in the fall. We’re “leaf peepers” (that’s an actual term.) Our agenda? To have none. No schedule, no reservations, and no goal other than seeing what each day had in store.
     Our pattern is this: we get up early, eat breakfast, and head out on country roads, taking the odd turn here and there on a whim, depending on our trusty GPS to get us back to civilization. Our aim? To be surprised and discover a perfect vista of golds, rusts, and reds that makes us gasp in awe and delight. When we hit the season right, our “Oooh!” quotient runs high and the view around every bend seems to one-up the last. 
     The day of the incident (and I call it an “incident” merely to entice you to keep reading) we were driving in eastern New Hampshire and found a highway that bordered that state, just inside Maine (Highway 113 if you’re interested.) It was a narrow two-laner, with huge trees edging the road, nearly encroaching on it, and hanging overhead like a canopy. We drove through an amazing tunnel of leaves.
     There was no traffic. None. It was as if we were alone in the world.
     But we hadn’t seen anything yet.
     My husband kept saying, “I can’t believe this road! I can’t believe these trees. . .” Then suddenly, he put on the brakes, and did a three-point-turn-around, right there on the highway.
     “Where are you going?” I asked.
     “You’ll see.”

     He drove back a hundred feet and pulled onto a narrow shoulder. He turned off the car. “Come on.”
     He led me to a small sign at the side of the road that marked a hiking trail. Small sign. Easily missed.
     But he hadn’t missed it.
     Thank God.
     We walked single file into the woods, the path more like a deer trail than one meant for humans. The trail was thickly carpeted with leaves and it was evident no one had passed this way for ages. Perhaps ever.
     As I picked up a red leaf as big as my hand, and then an orange one, then a bigger yellow one, I was like a kid in a candy store. “Look at this one!” Soon I had a leaf bouquet, their colors as vivid as if I’d dipped them in vats of paint.
     It didn’t take long for us to be deep enough into the woods to lose track of the road, to be fully encased in this netherland beyond our own.
     When I allowed my gaze to move from the floor of the forest upward, I saw that we were experiencing showers—not of rain but of leaves. For all around us leaves fell from the trees, dancing their way from branch to ground, landing on our heads and letting us catch them with the simple effort of an outstretched hand.
     Without agreeing to it, both of us stopped walking and stood perfectly still, a dozen feet between us. We faced each other, our heads shaking back and forth in utter incredulity.
     "Listen,” I whispered.
     I heard Mark take a breath and hold it. I did the same. 

     And then it happened.
     My eyes caught sight of one specific leaf. I watched as it let go of its branch and sashayed to the ground, turning, bowing, floating . . .
     And then I saw it touch the ground between us.
     I heard it touch the ground. 
     I heard it.
     I looked at Mark. The awe in his face revealed that he had seen it too; heard it land.

     All logic said it was impossible to hear the moment when a floating leaf meets the ground. The sound is too infinitesimal, the decibel-level un-measurable to the human ear. 
     And yet . . . we’d both heard it on a trail never-traveled, off a solitary road in Maine.
     We were reluctant to leave that place, and when we got in the car and turned on the engine, the sound seemed a sacrilege. Yet as the road led us to a town, and people, and the world and its worries, we looked upon all of that busyness with new eyes that understood what really mattered. Neither of us has ever forgotten what happened in the woods.  It was the highlight of the entire trip, a moment when God led us to a special place to show us something.
     Just for us.
     Just because.
     If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?
     Oh yes.